Better Combat – Path of Exile

Following the high of Fallout 4’s world building and the low of Witcher 3’s combat, I needed to get something moving again.  I like action RPGs, where numbers mean something, tactics have an application and character progress means choices.  I’m somewhat saturated on Diablo 3 since the most recent season (with 2 GR60 geared players and a few in the wings), and Marvel Heroes suffering from too many superheroes, I’m back to Path of Exile.

PoE had an expansion this summer which added a new act, which is about 25% more content.  It tweaked a lot of the underlying numbers for balance, added some new items (jewels and trading cards), added some skills and just put a huge amount of polish overall.  PoE takes D3’s seasons and puts it on steroids.  It’s like every month there’s a new ladder going on, and each with an interesting twist.  The ladder that started on the weekend is a talisman ladder.

Random enemies (1 or 2 per map it seems) will have a talisman that boosts some of their stats.  I think there’s 9 base versions of it, and they roll just like any other amulet (normal, magic, rare).  There are stone circles found in every 4th map or so, and if you put in 5 different talismans of the same rank, you fight a boss with a random talisman of the next rank.  The quality of that talisman is randomly selected from those you sacrifice.  Only rank 1 talismans drop in the world, so you need to use the stone circles to upgrade.  There are 4 ranks available.  To get that last one will take 125 rank 1 talisman.  My Witch is level 37 and is just shy of her first Rank 3 talisman.  So there’s certainly a long game for this league.

I’ve gone over the Path of Exile mechanics a fair bit in the past.  I find that the balance today is better than ever, in that there are no crystal clear OP builds.  It’s also harder to gimp yourself as scaling has been improved, and skill gem drops seem higher.  All in all, it’s a smoother curve.

There are only 3 drawbacks I see to the game, currently.

  • You nearly always require the overhead map to be active. You can change the opacity (press “O”) but it’s still an eyesore
  • The zones themselves are quite dark and large, making navigation difficult at times. It is very much like Diablo2, and a big split from Diablo3 and Marvel Heroes.
  • Loot progression is slow. If you’re used to upgrading gear 2-3 times per zone, this game is not for you.  Gear is meaningful, and crap loot is plentiful.  It’s comparable to D3’s legendary upgrade pace, pre-season 4 (without Kunai’s cube).  Your mileage will vary.

But again, there are huge positives.

  • Choices matter in the passive skill tree, as you can’t “reset” your choices past a certain point.
  • There’s a ton of replay value through maps and gem upgrades
  • Skill synergies can be customized. Want a fireball that chains, summons a zombie and weakens the group?  You can build that.
  • The barter system, and item customization is the best in the business. You can take a crap item and turn it into an amazing rare item with perfect stats and gem slots, if RNGsus loves you.
  • The combat and equipment art is amazing. Every character looks unique.
  • The cash stop (since this is a F2P game) is entirely cosmetic. Has been since the start.  It’s probably Syp’s dream come true.

I’ll be leveling up the Witch a bit more, finishing up Act 4 tonight and then posting a bit on the character progression in future posts.  I’m enjoying using my brain for combat again, both in strategy (what skills to build/select) and in tactics (when to use them).


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